Do you sell your files?
The question I get asked most on first enquiry is 'Do you sell your digital files?'. I understand the question, sometimes it's the only thing a potential client knows to ask, or they're told by magazines, friends, even by looking at other photographers' sites that this is the normal thing to possess at the end of a photo sitting. It would seem the easiest (and let's face it, cheapest) way to own those images. Everyone has a computer, right? Harvey Norman prints photos for 9c each...right??!! As you might imagine, as someone running a business selling custom photographic prints, the idea that someone wants my digital files to make endless copies isn't something that's conducive to feeding my children and paying my mortgage. That's the economic reality of it, but it goes far deeper than that. When a good photographer takes an image, they know how that photograph will look in print before they hit the shutter on the camera. My years of expertise, rapport with children, eye for black and white, knowledge of how my camera works, and how an image will print all come into play long before I've put that camera to my eye. Then, when the image has been taken, it's my knowledge in post-processing, printing and the display of that image that makes it custom art. This is where, I believe, the 'professional' part of being a Professional Photographer comes in. That expertise is what I'm paid for. I've spent a long time studying, practicing my craft, attending seminars/tradeshows and sheer hard work to get the knowledge to make sure that the photograph I create for you is done correctly. I shoot for that photograph to adorn your wall for the rest of your lives. It will be an heirloom. The value will be enormous now as your children enjoy the images of their childhood on display in their every day life, but will increase exponentially over the years until it's beyond priceless. I say this to my clients a lot...I want your children to fight you for these photographs when they leave home! So, when it comes to the printing of that photograph, the integrity I want it to contain, the fact that my name is associated with it, you'll have to forgive me for pulling the 'artiste' card and insisting that I be the one that brings it into being. I alone own that right and privilege. That's without going into the nightmares I have of my images being on mouse pads and coffee mugs...which I'm sure are just adorable, but not exactly the impression of my studio I'm hoping to have bounced around out there! I literally shudder at the thought. LOL
This is where I scare you all silly. Digital media is incredibly fragile. In fact, there is no guaranteed way to archive a digital file at present. Issues of compatibility aside (floppy discs!) it's not well known that CDs and DVDs have a very short shelf life, around 2-5 years for a CD burnt from a computer. That should scare half of you who have all of your images on CD...but for the smug ones who have them all on backed up hard drives...start praying. I was once told, there are only two types of hard drive. Ones that have failed, and ones that are going to. I've lost hard drives myself. The technology is so utterly fragile that it can take one power surge, knock to the drive, tipped glass of water or just that it's the third Tuesday in September...and they'll fail. I have clients who have lost every single image of their children's lives because they relied on digital media. Years worth of digital photos, all gone because they weren't printed. I'm (obviously) a big advocate for printing your favourite photos and putting them in flip albums at the least. Make hard copies of anything important like that, whether it's photos or documents, they are far too easily lost to the ether. I really don't want a product on my price list like that. I'm selling something that will last a lifetime, not five minutes.
We use professionals for many different aspects of our lives across many different trades. The reason for hiring a professional over 'someone who does it for the love of it' is that we know that we can trust their process and their final product. There is a relief in knowing that everything will be handled well for us, that the expert will do their thing without needing too much input, and that the end product will not only serve its purpose but be a source of pride because it was done so beautifully. I'd like to start a movement back to focusing on why you, as a client, want photographs of your family. I'm betting it's not so that in 50 years time your great grandchild can find the CD of your photos and wonder what on earth that round thing is :) Imagine that same great-grandchild looking through an album that shows grandma as a baby. Or a stunning framed print of the day your family spent in the forest back in 2011. Priceless :)
With this post comes an announcement. I obviously take the archiving of your images very seriously, and I've had the odd hard drive failure to deal with myself. As of July 1st, 2011, all images taken prior to January 2011 will be archived off-site in an attempt to keep the files safe should anything happen to a client's prints. Of course, this isn't fool-proof but is safer than having everything saved in one place. Our archiving policies on unordered images are about to change as well, and will be outlined in the session information sent on booking.
If you have any questions about this issue, please don't hesitate to email or call.